Change happens when we choose it. This fact becomes clear when watching the ALS ice bucket challenge gain traction. What made this challenge so successful? Two things: the worthiness of the cause coupled with its simple call to action. Most of us want to help worthy causes. The disconnect happens when we aren’t sure exactly how to get involved.
Early adopters of most good causes have faith that raising awareness will inspire others to get involved. Charitable organizations develop wonderful messaging but often do not create a direct connection to action beyond explaining how to donate. The brilliance of the ALS campaign is its emotional authenticity and its accessible, personal call to action. The story of Pete Frates, The Original Ice Bucket Challenge emotionally moved us, but it was the added challenge of the personal nomination process that turned a worthy cause into a fundraising phenomenon.
We saw how important raising awareness became. We saw how easily we could take part. Phone with video? Check. Ice? Check. Bucket? Check. Friends to nominate for the challenge? Check. ALS online donation site? Check. Done. Doing good feels good. It especially feels good when the world is with you. So how do we learn from this wave of goodness?
We teach ourselves and our children that one good thought inspires one good act. In turn, it is the collective force of those individual thoughts and actions that change the world. It simply cannot happen otherwise.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
― Margaret Mead
No matter what we choose to do in life, we all need inspiration. Whether we are teaching a class, writing a blog, or solving world problems, inspiration is the bridge between our thoughts and our actions. The definition of ‘inspiration’ is ‘to infuse into the mind; to communicate to the spirit’. In this sense, inspiration is the fire to our rocket, the ‘giddy up’ to our wagon, and the ‘go‘ to our ‘on your mark, get set‘.
It moves us. So, in order to take ourselves and our children to the next great adventure, we need to be sure that inspiration remains an essential component of any educational experience. All schools have great kids. All schools have valid content to teach, and they have some good teachers to teach it. Most schools have nice facilities, technology access and the support of their community. So what is it that makes any school a great school? It is the ability to cultivate inspiration.
Outcomes in the real world depend on the ability to move thoughts into actions, the intangible to the tangible. Everything else is an unwritten symphony, an unopened book, and an unsung song. Thus, school leaders can do three things to create room in a school community for inspiration:
- Hire ‘fire starters’ not arsonists. Every school culture needs those souls who breathe life and warmth into ideas. We need also to avoid those who prefer the ashes and the cold.
- Respect the individual journey. Every person in the building hears a different call to action; honor this diversity. Model the behavior you seek. Listen, encourage, and excite.
- Play. Life, and most aspects of it, are supposed to be fun. Yes, we need to work hard, but when we are doing something that we believe in, particularly with people we care about, even the mundane parts of the work can be fun. Snow White and Mary Poppins were keenly aware of this fact. Whistling while we work, with a spoonful of sugar, helps us get moving.
Inspiration transforms. Without it, we have stacks of facts, and mountains of ideas- but no results. All of us have the potential to be our own version of a Ms. or Mr. Keating, We each have the power to put the ‘carpe’ into our ‘diem’. Who knows? Maybe someday the next Morgan Freeman, Robin Williams, Edward James Olmos, or Michelle Pfeiffer will get the call to play one of us in the next educational blockbuster. It could happen….